Lecture Review 2

Mark Pharish

Visiting artist Lecture CU

Lucas Grund

Mark Pharish’s Lecture covered the vast majority of his works over the years. He gave a literal timeline of pieces starting from his earliest to his latest pieces. He worked solely in ceramics from the beginning of his career as an artist and to that day continued working in that medium.

His works encompassed ceramic bowls, soy pots, and vases. These were all in search of a means to represent structure. He lived in a rural area of Minnesota for a decade where he gathered all sorts of inspiration from ancient agricultural buildings for his pieces, drawing from their shingles, shape, and build. These pots were mainly salt fired and had very rough textures to mimic the earth or earthen bricks used in the construction of most agricultural buildings. His fabrications often had many visible seams that could be used to deconstruct the pottery itself into its basic parts or building blocks just as one could do with actual buildings and their building materials. This steadily evolved into a more subtle structural form as he began to work more with hand forming rather than wheel throwing. Despite this slow transformation he still played with the textural elements, creating very rough and repetitive themes that came from structures. His works began to transform into a discovery of twist. His pottery remained structural and paper cut, however, they began to have movement. His arrangement of the pieces of clay began to be offset making the vases appear to be twisted around. Both sides of the handles and spouts found rest on different sides of the pots.

Pharis’ pottery seemed to be an exploration of his own ability. When he first started out working with these ceramics he only knew how to throw pottery well. This changed and morphed into the pieces that he has created recently. Being somewhat more abstract, he began playing with the shape and form of pots without defining them as something else all together. These pots played with the twist of the pottery giving them a semblance of movement, which is not common for pottery, let alone the structured kind that he had been creating. His desire to create a semblance of structure was emphasized by means of his repetition. This could range from 30-50 of the same pot with minute differences to the texture or glaze. All of these aspects made his works something above the ordinary. They became something that had a purpose and left the viewer with a semblance of his structural intent.

Nearly all of Pharis’ works felt claustrophobic to me, in a sense. His pots were very rigid and flat with little detail on them except for the little texture he gave to them. It lent itself well to the large quantities and numbers of similar pots he created. It was like looking at a heavily crowded street crossing covered in people, or a large herd of animals that could trample over everything at the slightest scare. They were tight and the amount of repetition he gave, in making many of the same pot, increased this feeling by adding an overwhelming element to it. In this repetition he gave, the pots also became this sort of amorphous mass since when he used it, he usually left these pots very close together and since they were left in close proximity to one another they created one single mass of pot bodies. It felt as though they were an ocean; laying in wait, ready to drown the odd, unsuspecting viewer in its monotony and manufactured appearance if they approached too close.

One Response

  1. I love hearing about ceramic artists, but I found your essay to be a bit too descriptive and biography oriented. It would have been nice to hear a bit more about what you thought of his work instead of the minor details.

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